This week’s column is going to be a little harder for me to write – not just because we didn’t pull out a win, but also because I had to watch the game in segments. I got to see most of the game live, and at the two minute warning in the fourth quarter, I had to leave for work, so the last two minutes were left for this morning. There were enough blunders and missed opportunities in the first three quarters to put me in a bad mood – not what I needed before starting a new job.
The majority of Rams fans knew this game was going to be difficult, and that the chances of pulling off a miracle win were slim. Some of the most pessimistic fans expected a complete blowout, not yet understanding that the Rams of 2012 are not the Rams of 2011. While we are not yet a complete team capable of competing with the elite NFL teams, we are not far from it. The Rams are now a team who has the ability to shock the other 31 teams with our determination and desire to fight to the end of every game. Just a few months ago, had the Rams been down by 17 at any point during a game, the entire team would have acted like it was over, and only given a half-hearted effort to finish the game. Now, with 1:49 left, we still give it everything we’ve got, putting up points in the face of a certain loss.
The most disappointing aspect of the game was not the loss; it was the fact that the Packers had thousands of fans filling the seats that should have been occupied by Rams fans. Understandably, St. Louis was concentrating on the Cardinals unbelievable run in the playoffs. However, considering the number of Rams fans in St. Louis, I find little excuse in the lack of fan support for this game. A large number of Rams fans are still apathetic due to the lackluster play of the past few seasons. There is no reason for these fans to feel this way. Most of us can recall the Oldsmobile commercials from a few years ago, when they used the line, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”, referring to the difference between the big, comfortable, yet stodgy vehicles they used to produce. Well, this is NOT your father’s Rams – not the Rams of the 90’s. This is the new 2012 Rams. These guys fight to the finish, they don’t play finesse, they don’t have the losing attitude, they don’t submit – even to a better opponent.
Now for this week’s Silver Linings…

1. Danny Amendola: Danny HAS RETURNED TO PRACTICE!!! This didn’t happen during the game – in fact, it just happened this morning. This is fantastic news. Danny is the “Weeble” of the Rams – he wobbles, but he won’t fall down. We won’t be seeing him strutting his stuff in London, but he should be back after the bye week.

2. Sam Bradford: By far, this was NOT his prettiest game. The reason he has the #2 spot is the TD pass to Pettis…down by 17 with only 1:34 left in the game, and no chance of even tying the game at this point. Win or lose, Sam has shown the desire to play to the end. Now, if we could get some consistency in our receiving corps, and an O-line that could give him a little more time…

3. Offensive Line: Yeah, kind of weird. I just complained about the O-line when it comes to giving Bradford time, then I praise them. Well, I have my reasons…chiefly, even though the Packers got three sacks on Sam, Clay Matthews only got to him one time. The way Matthews kept getting shifted around, no one knew exactly where he was going to be coming from, or how he was going to try to get to Bradford. The O-line stepped up to the challenge much better than they would have in past seasons. Now, if we can just keep seeing improvement…

4. Michael Brockers: Brockers seems to be getting a little bit quicker each week. He is also getting sneakier when shoving past tackles and guards to get to a quarterback. It was nice to see him sack Rodgers once and keep the pressure on him all game. Mark him down as a good draft pick that will only keep getting better.

5. James Laurinaitis: I probably should have put him much higher on the list – after all 13 solo tackles and one assist is great. I guess we are just used to his high level of play, his dedication to the game, and his above average performance every game. If we could find a way to clone him, we would have the best LB corps in the NFL. As it is, we have a very respectable defense – and J-Lau is right in the center of it all.

6. Janoris Jenkins: I am really shocked that neither he nor Finnegan got a turnover this week, but no one can say he hasn’t lived up to the hype. Jenkins has the same high-motor approach to the game as Laurinaitis. I’m really beginning to think our defense is being trained by the Energizer Bunny – they keep going, and going, and going…

7. Chris Givens: He really needs to work on consistency – he seems to drop the easy catches, but when we really need a deep ball, most of the time he grabs it and comes through for us. Now, if Danny could teach him how to grab on and hang on…

8. Brandon Gibson: This guy is someone I thought would never make it in the NFL. Sure, he had all the potential in the world – but so did James Durbin. If you don’t know who that is, he was a contestant on American Idol who made it all the way to 4th place. (No, I didn’t know that – I needed an example, so I asked Brenda…) Whether Gibson continues his progress is up in the air. He has stepped up to help fill the hole that was left when Amendola got injured – and has done a pretty good job.

9. Steven Jackson: Jackson is someone I can identify with – he is the consummate master of his craft, but as with everything in the universe, entropy plays the spoiler. He is far from finished with his career, still able to power through defenders. Twelve carries for 57 yards and a TD is about half of what we used to see from him – but when you look at the big picture, this is still great. The huge numbers we used to see from him were back when Jackson was the ENTIRE offense – now, he is just one part – a very important part – of our offense. When you realize he is in his 9th season, his numbers are still adequate, especially when we have Richardson.

10. Daryl Richardson: Yes, he made the list again. Each week, as I watch him on the field, I am amazed at one of the draft steals we made. He seems to be learning more and more what his abilities are, what our opponents limitations are, and how to use both to make plays.

11. Legatron: After having the worst game of his career last week, he returned to his previously perfect form, making every kick he attempted. When you look up the definition of “perfection” in the football dictionary, you will find his picture. It doesn’t matter that he missed three kicks – he set that behind him and never looked back.

I kicked in one extra “Silver Lining” this week – I hope you don’t mind. This week, we look to London. Our fearless leader, Dez, will be in the stands cheering on our Rams, cussing the referees, and inventing profanities for the Patriots. I’m not going to kid myself; this is going to be a very difficult game to win for several reasons. First, the Rams seem to be unable to win on the road up to this point. They may call this a “home game”, but the fact is, if it’s not the dome, it ain’t our home! Second, I don’t think there is a single person on this planet who doesn’t know that the zebras do whatever they can to make sure the Pats win. It’s been that way since 2001. Then, lastly, we must remember that Brady can whine for a flag, claiming a penalty was committed (even if one wasn’t), and he will get his way.
Of course, the bye week is coming right after this week. Perfectly timed, it gives us a chance to heal our wounds, get the swagger back, and be ready to kick some butt in the second half of the season.